You’ve graduated your bootcamp, landed your first full time gig and been developing software professionally for a year. Seemingly out of the blue, a friend calls you, a recruiter buzzes you or you get a cryptic message on Linked In that reads:

Hey! <insert company here> is building <insert awesome product here> and growing in your area! I ran across your profile and think you would be a great fit for a position we have open!

You’re happy at your current job, but there’s no harm in looking right? You open the conversation, pass the inevitable phone screening and then they hit you with an offer you can’t refuse, “we’ll give you a 20k salary bump to come work for us!”

Don’t do it, it’s a trap.

Red Flags

I’ve been mentoring for bootcamps, and helping junior developers build their careers for the better part of eight years. In that time I have noticed a disturbing trend that many bootcamps fail to cover how to recognize red flags when considering employment at a new company.

For this reason, many a star eyed bootcamper has had their soul sucked through their nostrils by not recognizing when an perceived opportunity might in fact be a terrible, terrible mistake.

So what are some these red flags, and how do you avoid them?

1. The Smartphone Interview

An interviewer who pays more attention to his or her phone than he does you. They ask a question and immediately tune you out and start thumbing through their phone like they are sitting on the john. This is a SERIOUS red flag. The higher ranking the interviewer, the brighter red the flag.

I recently talked to a fellow who mentioned that during a final interview with the CTO that he never seemed to look away from his phone. This guy doesn’t really care about the man being interviewed. It’s a formality to him, and in all likely-hood he probably wont even remember your name.

If this were a first date, would you go on a second? No? Then why would you trust your career and lively-hood to someone who is more interested in his Twitter feed an in what you have to bring to the company he is supposedly representing? It’s okay here to have a little pride and walk out of the interview. Even if you are desperate, chances are that if the person interviewing you barely acknowledges your existence, when times get tough and hard decisions need to be made they won’t miss a minutes sleep over losing you.

2. We’re Fast Moving

Fluidity in development is a goal every company should aspire for. It is true that some companies are “slow moving”, wrapped up in layers and layers of red tape. A switch to a “fast moving” company seems like a breath of fresh air almost anyone who has worked for one of these sluggish companies.

What this REALLY means in probably ninety percent of cases, is that there is absolutely no work life balance. From 50 hour work weeks, to organized code death marches over weekend after weekend, you can bet that you’ll be moving fast but at the cost of having no real life outside of the job.

This comes in many different phrases:

  • “We’re fast moving.”
  • “We work hard; play hard” (always seems to be sans play)
  • “our people work longer hours because they love the product so much”

3. The Gauntlet Interview

Here’s our interview process now that you are through the phone screening. We want you to take this coding challenge, if you pass that we will have the a technical interview, plan on it being two to three hours long. If you pass that, we will have a cultural interview with the team you will be working on. Finally we have an interview with the VP of Development, Development Manager, CTO etc…

This is common schick in the development world, and sometimes it edges towards the ridiculous. I had it recently mentioned to me that “if a team of three can’t decide if a candidate is a good fit in a single interview, then five people in five different interviews won’t be able to either.”

Don’t let companies waste your valuable time. Interview cycles like this is often a good indicator of an elitist culture behind the curtain. I once worked for a company where employees would swap stories about how they made this person or that person cry during the interview process.

If you pass, you feel good you’re part of the club. But you can almost guarantee that if they don’t value your personal time before you work for them they probably won’t value your personal time when they are paying you.

4. Overypaying

To me this is by far, the most dangerous red flag to ignore. Junior developers out of bootcamps are notoriously bad at understanding their market value. This is a concept that EVERY developer needs to learn and understand. But even those who do fall into the trap of following the money.

When a company offers developer with a years experience the salary of a developer with two or three years of experience, it’s a safe bet that they will expect him or her to perform like a developer with two or three years of experience.

You an also expect that you are locked in. If you are being paid above market rate, it means that you will not be able move to a new company for what you are making now. You’re in it for the long haul. If the company culture sucks, if the expectations are too high, you have the choice of taking a pay cut, or burning yourself out to keep up.


Don’t be Afraid to Say No

It’s hard to say no. If you are out of a job, if you’re not making enough, if you’re in a crappy company, it’s hard to say no to a job even if they hare showing dozens of red flags. Better opportunities WILL come along. The competition is stiff in the Junior Developer world, but chances are that if one company sees you as a potential hire, many more will as well.